On Friday, Manhattan Justice Edward McLaughlin sentenced Taylonn Murphy Jr. to 50 years to life for the 2011 murder of Walter Sumter. Murphy was also convicted of conspiracy, robbery and weapons charges.
Murphy Jr., 20, was one of 103 young men and teenagers who were swept up early on a June morning in 2014 in what was then the largest raid in the New York City Police Department’s history. The Manhattan district attorney’s office said the violence between rival crews from the Grant and Manhattanville Houses resulted in the shooting deaths of both of Murphy’s sister, Tayshana, and Sumter in Harlem.
In a victim impact statement, Sumter’s father forgave Murphy but did not minimize the impact his son’s death has had on his family.
“It is not just my wife and I that lost our only son,” he said. “Walter was a brother to his sister and an uncle to his niece and nephews.”
After the hearing, court officers escorted Sumter’s family out of the courtroom. They declined to comment.
Speaking before issuing the sentence, Judge Edward McClaughlin admonished Murphy for what he called “narcissistic and egomaniacal gang behavior” that lead to Sumter’s death — and criticized Murphy for wearing rosary beads during the trial. He also told Murphy not to expect visits from the many friends and family who filled the courtroom, sobbing as the judge admonished Murphy’s family and community.
The courtroom was filled to capacity. Outside young men, many of them teenagers, waited for the outcome of the hearing. Some of Sumter’s friends wore laminated pictures of him around their necks. The friends of Murphy Jr. walked over and talked to Sumter’s supporters while a group of court officers watched, some of them with their thumbs hooked through their bullet-proof vests.
The judge had ordered additional security to his courtroom for the sentencing. Taylonn Murphy Sr. described it as theater on McLaughlin’s part since there had never been any disruption during his son’s trial.
The elder Murphy spoke to the 20 or so young people who had come to support his son. He said he wanted to use his son’s fate as a learning experience and discourage them from using use it as a pretense for more violence.
“Let’s use this energy to prove them wrong on what they were saying about the community,” he said. “No disrespect to your honor, but I don’t know if he’s been in our community, or has he seen our community, or understand the plights we have in our community.”
Murphy Sr. said they convicted and sentenced his son with no physical evidence. Outside of 100 Centre St. Murphy looked to the courthouse across the street, where he sat through what he described as “two grueling trials” for his daughter’s murder.
“It’s hard to smile; I don’t know how I do it sometimes,” he said. “I’ve lost children to both sides of the gun. First Tayshana now my son. We’re losing young people [in] droves.”